By CBSLA Staff

ARCADIA (CBSLA) — The U.S. Forest Service raised the fire danger level in the Angeles National Forest to “very high” on Wednesday, a month earlier than usual.

(credit: Angeles National Forest)

Extreme heat and record drought conditions have led to dry, dead grasses and vegetation in the Angeles National Forest, and with this week’s dangerous heat wave, an increase in gusty winds could be disastrous, according to Angeles National Forest officials.

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“We’re easily a month or more ahead of fire weather conditions for this time of year,” Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia said in a statement.

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Forest officials say they wanted to raise awareness of the tinderbox conditions in the forest ahead of the Fourth of July, which is traditionally its busiest day. Last year, more than 20 wildfires started over the holiday weekend, and the Angeles National Forest expects to again break visitor records this year.

Visitors can still have open wood and charcoal fires in approved “developed” campgrounds and picnic areas where steel rings or stoves are provided, while propane and jellied gas stoves and grills are permitted in non-developed areas with a valid California Campfire Permit. Smoking is only allowed in enclosed vehicles or developed recreation sites. Drivers were urged to stay on designated roads and never park on dry brush or grass, to avoid sparking a fire.

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All fireworks, including sparklers, are prohibited on national forest lands, and a violation can result in a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Anyone found to have caused a wildfire is liable for all costs of suppressing a fire.